November 28, 2000
It’s not all gloom and doom as Greater Toronto Area mobsters huddle in local social clubs to discuss the impact of the largest Mafia bust in Canadian history.
The RCMP takedown of 73 alleged members of the Montreal-based Rizzuto crime family last week has created an opportunity for more business and less competition for organized criminals in Toronto, often seen as the Second City of the Canadian underworld, local mob experts say. Warrants are outstanding for another 18 accused members of the Montreal organization, believed by police to be the richest mob group in the country. “The shift of power will come over to Toronto,” says one local police expert, who says the Canadian underworld pecking order has been upset. “Who’s in charge?” he asked. “This could lead to violence.”
Many mobsters in the GTA area who aren’t connected to the Rizzutos have sported outsized smiles since last week’s massive RCMP bust, a police investigator says. “Now, everything’s up for grabs,” one investigator says. “You’re seeing a lot of happy faces now.” Tier-two mobsters now have an opportunity to move up to the big leagues in the cocaine-trafficking business that has long been dominated by the Montrealers, mob experts say.
Some 1,300 charges were laid last week against the Rizzuto crime group as part an operation dubbed “Project Colisée,” in a reference to the ancient, crumbling Roman landmark. The RCMP-led crackdown included charges of gangsterism, drug smuggling, bookmaking, attempted murder, extortion and possession of restricted weapons. The Canada Revenue Agency says it is also going after 82-year-old Nick Rizzuto for $1.5 million in back taxes, alleging he ran an online-betting operation that netted $25 million a year.
For local mobsters connected to the Rizzutos, it’s important now to maintain an appearance of calm, says Larry Tronstad, a private investigator with the Detek Investigative Group in Vaughan, and formerly an RCMP member of the elite Combined Forces Special Investigations Unit, which targets organized crime. Foreign cocaine wholesalers need to be reassured that they can continue to do business as usual, while local mobsters must be cautioned not to get too aggressive, experts say. “The biggest problem they have is keeping everybody calm on their supply side,” Tronstad says.
While the Rizzuto crime group hasn’t dominated the local mob scene, they have definitely had a major influence, experts say.
Francesco Arcadi, 53, arrested last week in a Quebec country cottage, sporting a camouflage jacket, was frequently seen in Woodbridge over the past year, visiting mob hangouts, including a members-only sports bar. Arcadi would fly to Toronto first-class with a portly Montrealer, who chauffeured him about in a rented sport utility vehicle as they visited GTA mobsters.
Nick Rizzuto’s son, Vito, 60, lived in Montreal but ran GTA waste disposal and discount coffin businesses. He is now in custody in the U.S., where he faces a racketeering indictment for allegedly murdering three Bonanno crime family members in 1981 in New York.
“Arcadi was considered the face of the Rizzuto crime family on the street, after the arrest of Vito,” says local author Antonio Nicaso, who has written more than a dozen books on organized crime, and who’s now writing one on the Rizzuto crime family with Quebec journalist Andre Cedilot. Nick Rizzuto was so well-dressed in a tailored suit when he was arrested last week that there were rumours that he was tipped off to the busts. He had taken on a higher profile after Vito was extradited to the U.S. last August. Over the past few months, Nick Rizzuto was often seen in north Montreal, meeting with Arcadi at the Association de Cattolica Eraclea, a grungy coffee shop formerly known as the Cosenza Social Club. Nick Rizzuto’s father-in-law, the late Antonio Manno, was considered the underworld boss of the town of Cattolica Eraclea in Sicily.
Here in the GTA, long-time underworld figures associated with the Rizzutos include a 76-year-old with a bad heart who would rather spend his winters in Florida; a 71-year-old Grade 5 dropout who collected workplace compensation benefits after claiming a construction injury; and a 77-year-old, who played host to Nick Rizzuto and Tommaso Buscetta of Sicily back in happier times, before the elder Rizzuto was locked up and Buscetta turned informer.
Such underworld veterans have seen rough times before, and take police busts as a cost of doing business, Tronstad said. He dismisses the idea that the Rizzuto crime family has been knocked out of business, either in Montreal or Toronto.
“I just don’t believe for a second that these guys don’t have a disaster plan,” Tronstad says, noting that a mobster once told him, “Every once in a while, the quarterback gets hurt.” It’s possible to run a mob enterprise from prison, Tronstad says, adding he thinks the organization’s replacement leaders will keep a low profile. “These guys will be reluctant to be seen out and about,” he adds. “Now is not the time to be visible.”
Cedilot says he expects new acting leaders of the Rizzuto organization to emerge, and struggle to stay low profile. “It’s a pyramid,” Cedilot says, adding that the organization relies heavily on professionals like lawyers and financial planners to maintain its power. Among the suspects charged last week in Project Colisée are 10 workers at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport in Montreal and a Canada Border Services Agency employee, accused of fast-tracking drug couriers through customs.
There are plenty of GTA mobsters who aren’t connected with the Rizzutos, experts say. York Region is home to at least a dozen fugitives wanted by Italy on anti-Mafia charges, according to York Region police. Some of the GTA mobsters who aren’t connected to the Rizzutos are considered members of the Mafia group called the `Ndranghetta, whose origins are in southern Italy, while others are related to the Cuntrera-Caruana crime group, which has roots in Sicily.
Nicaso says local mobsters may be troubled to see that authorities have hit the Rizzuto organization with gangsterism charges, which bring mandatory prison time for crimes committed in aid of a criminal enterprise. In the past, they’ve been levelled only against native Manitoba Warriors and outlaw bikers. He said he expects a further wave of police arrests, followed by a further series of underworld adjustments, both in Montreal and the GTA. “This can be considered `Colisée One,’” Nicaso says, referring to the series of Godfather movies. “It’s a neverending-story.”
Toronto Star 27-11-06